Mittwoch, 1. August 2007

Day 5: Aveiro, Porto

Thanks to the extra blankets, there was no freezing as there had been the night before. As we had decided on a short trip to Aveiro, we got up early nonetheless. Our first task that day was the shopping we had successfully managed to delay. We were still getting dressed when we heard the front door open and somebody entered, coughing. Immediately Romy was out of her room. She knew that cough. It could only mean that Judith had returned from Lisbon. It was so good to see her again, her good friend and former flatmate who had moved to France in August.

Even though we had been about to leave, we postponed our outing to give Judith some time for a rest and take her with us. After our first food shopping and a delicious breakfast at home, the we finally set off. Our first stop was to be near Gaia, at Senhor da Pedra. By the time we left the car, Danni and Judith were already getting along perfectly well, as if they had known each other for years.

Senhor da Pedra is a charming little chapel built in the rocks, quite on top of the Atlantic. As we had not made it to the seafront in Porto the day before, it was great to smell the ocean again.

Even though it was quite a clouded day and rather windy, we were not the only ones to appreciate this special place. Clad in a neoprene outfit, somebody was standing amidst the rocks, performing his fishing in almost acrobatic stunts.

While Romy and Judith were happy about seeing each other again, Danni was trying out the rocks near the chapel.
Careful, watch your steps!

After such a long time and so many things happening in between, Romy and Judith had loads to talk about, many stories to tell. Back to back, they were completely lost in time.

However, our set goal for that day was Aveiro. Therefore the three of us got back into the car and moving. “Vamos andando – Let’s get going”, what a name for a boat! Inviting, but at the same time telling us to get a move on...

When we finally arrived in Aveiro, we couldn’t resist taking a picture of Romy in front of a shop bearing her name.

Enough fooling around. By then we had reached the Aveiro lighthouse. What a picturesque motif! The sun was almost setting so we hurried towards the sandy beach.

Well, we didn’t hurry that much, coming to think of it. There was always time for a stop to enjoy the beautiful colours.

It was the little things that fascinated us, like the man on his bicycle sporting the national flag. Or Judith melting into the sunset…

Leaving Judith to rest and ponder over her thoughts, Danni and Romy continued their exploration. Again and again we found things we absolutely had to capture, like a set of twin lighthouses, smaller than the first one we had seen.

We waited at the seafront until the sun had set completely then returned to Porto as Romy had a dinner marked with some of her friends from university.

However, just before we set off to the restaurant, we stopped at a friend of Romy’s to say thank you for the extra blankets we had received the day before. While Romy was chatting with his mother, Danni was doing her best to keep Carlos busy by teaching him how to juggle. In fact, they had a fascinated observer: Nani was never taking her eyes away from the juggling lemons. Aren’t those humans weird sometimes?!

Still, we couldn’t stay forever. So we just checked the location of the restaurant on the map, kissed the lady of the house goodbye and took one last picture.

Of course we were late for dinner. Whatever you may have heard about German punctuality, we seem to have missed something in that respect. When we arrived, Marta had already ordered for us. Even though there were only few people, Romy really enjoyed meeting her friends again and introducing them to Danni. A great finish for a wonderful day.

Sonntag, 11. März 2007

Day 4: Porto

Danni woke early, it had been freezing cold during the night. On top of that, a draught entered through the partly rotting window frame. There was no question: something had to be done to arrange some extra blankets. First of all we were faced with a different challenge. As Romy’s phone had decided to stay in France with her Vodafone number, she was now left with only TMN, her secondary number, and hardly any contacts. Therefore a message was left on msn and an emergency email was sent for people to get in touch with us.

Since we had arrived only the night before, we had no food but our leftovers – and Natalia’s orginal Spanish almond nougat. As we didn’t know what to expect, we decided to try the plain one first. It was wrapped tightly, the plastic fitting like a rather oily skin.

Hum… it was indeed rather rich – and sticky.
Holding it out between two fingers and switching hands once in a while, you could only ever have tiny amounts at a time - with the appropriate pack of tissues or napkins.

Nougat was nice, but we decided that breakfast needed to be somewhat more substantial. So Romy took Danni to one of her favourites just around the corner – Café Eça near Praça Velasquez. That was also the time for a lesson on Portuguese place names. Its official name, Praça Francisco Sá Carneiro is reserved only for maps and road signs, the locals stick to a plain “Velasquez”. Another example is the “Rotunda da Boavista” – out in the streets, nobody has heard of “Praça Mouzinho Albuquerque”.
However, we did not care much about place names as we sat in the cosy Café Eça with some torradas and Danni’s first ever Compal manga – a mango juice that should become her special favourite. Our waiter was delighted to have the chance to practice his impressive English and readily agreed to take our photo.

After breakfast, we set out to see some of the city. We walked the Avenida Fernão de Magalhães right down to Campo 24 de Agosto, and then turned towards the centre. Romy quickly walked two Spanish tourists, who had asked for the way, until Via Catarina, and then we continued towards Aliados.

At first Danni was slightly surprised when she heard that our first sight was to be a train station of all things.

However, São Bento soon convinced her with its own charm, not least because of the beautiful Azulejos depicting important scenes of Portuguese history.

As we walked back towards Aliados, we stopped to take a picture of Danni and the newspaper boy.

The „Avenida dos Aliados“ is one of the most important and most impressive spots in Porto. Coming from São Bento, we looked up to the city hall, flanked by huge houses, many of them containing banks.

We then continued towards the „Torre dos Clérigos”, the highest church tower in Portugal (Cheaters – they build it on a hill to make it look even higher).

After passing the Lions’ Fountain and having a quick look at the fassade of Hospital Santo António, we reached the little park at Cordoaria. Danni was fascinated by the colourful houses. Narrow and high, they seem to be leaning against each other so as not to fall.

It was then, that Romy’s desperate attempt to get in touch with her friends began to work. Sofia sent a text, saying that she was looking forward to meeting us. However, Romy was so thrilled that she never read the message until the end. Thus it completely escaped her that Sofia wasn’t able to be with us that day but that she would try to be with us in the beginning of the week. Luckily Sofia called and prevented further misunderstandings. On the phone we arranged for her to organise a meeting in Piolho on Tuesday. Not easy, after all Romy hadn’t been speaking Portuguese for a month and you could see her concentrating hard to get back into it.

In the meantime, Danni was looking around a bit. In Cordoaria, there are several sculptures of laughing men. They just sit there, laughing at the onlooker until they seem to fall off.

Of course we couldn't resist joining them!

Hum, one at a time is fair enough, but wouldn’t it be so much nicer to have both of us up there at the same time?!

Cutting across to Clérigos, we continued in the direction of Ribeira. It was then that another Sofia called, a great friend Romy had already spent Christmas with. She was thrilled to know that we had already arrived and agreed to meet us later in Boavista. But for the time being we continued descending the enormous stairs leading down almost to the riverfront, and we enjoyed a nice view on the Cathedral and some of the other churches in the area.

We walked past the Palácio da Bolsa and the market, passing the Infante Dom Henrique pointing South, then past his birthplace, always towards the river.

Alongside narrow streets we continued towards “Praça da Ribeira”.

Then we reached the place with the fountain shaped like a cube. It was, of course, another chance for Danni to see the colourful tiled houses she liked so much: red, green, yellow and white.

By that time it was high time to get to the river. Romy had promised ocean in Porto and we were going to take the tram along the river until the point where it enters the sea. So we continued for a while along the river Douro. However, we soon left the UNESCO Cultural World Heritage area, easily seen in the increasing decay.

As we walked along, there was one thing that crept back into our minds: The freezing cold inside the house. Cursing her missing phone, Romy called home for the number of another friend. Walking up and down, she rang Carlos, a proven and tested provider of warm blankets for Romy-guests. He agreed, saying that he would come straight after fetching a couch surfer from the coach station.

However, by then our initial plan of seeing the ocean was changed in favour of a coffee with Sofia and the prospect of some blankets. We were now heading for Boavista, always along the river.

On our way we also passed a beautiful set of Azulejos depicting figures of Portuguese history, among them the above mentioned Henry the Navigator.

Eventually it was time to leave the river. Walking up the Rua Dom Pedro V, Romy showed Danni the student house she had stayed in during her first month in Porto. After that we quickly stopped in the Shopping Cidade do Porto to buy some water because our extensive walking had left us quite thirsty. Even better, as the café Romy had wanted to go to was closed on Sundays. Without more ado we called Sofia and changed our plans. So Danni also got to see the second flat Romy had lived in.

On the corner of Rua Nossa Senhora da Fátima we settled for a nice coffee with Sofia in “Porto Rico”. Afterwards she walked us to the Metro station and we went home – only to find that Carlos had already arrived. He had brought us some nice warm blankets. Together with his friend Patricija, all four of us sat down to some of Natalia's nice Spanish wine and a snack Danni miraculously improvised from nowhere as we had not yet managed to go shopping.